It took nearly 12 hours to mobilise staff to begin moving the Lufthansa aircraft that was stuck on the tarmac of Mumbai airport on Friday night. The aircraft was finally towed away 22 hours later.
The aircraft carrying 163 passengers from Munich got stuck on the tarmac around 10.50pm after its landing gear failed. It sat on the airport’s main runway till the next morning. Although flight ops were moved to the secondary runway, at least four flights, including the Lufthansa return flight to Munich, were cancelled. These included a flight each by Air India and United Airlines bound to Newark.
The Singapore Airlines Airbus 380 was also cancelled. All flights were running up to 40 minutes late and about 1,000 passengers bound to long distance international destinations were held up in the city.
According to airport sources, the German carrier approached Jet Airways for help around 7 am on Saturday. While airport officials did not comment on the delay, a Jet Airways spokesperson confirmed the airline’s engineers began the rescue work on Saturday morning.
“Jet Airways was approached by Lufthansa on Saturday morning requesting help to shift their aircraft from the runway. A team from Jet Airways was mobilised at 8.30am along with equipment to rectify the landing gear,” said the spokesperson. The first look at the Airbus A330, a twin-aisle aircraft with a capacity of 240-odd fliers, showed all tyres had ruptured and landing gear had got stuck on the tarmac.
The plane’s braking system had taken a severe beating. “Our first task was to lift the plane so the tyres could be removed. It took a few hours to fix the aircraft jack and lift the jumbo,” said an aircraft maintenance engineer from Jet. The damaged tyres were replaced. A few hours also went in fixing the brakes, officials added.
Airport sources said want of manpower and resources led to the delay. “Until now, Air India has the best technical infrastructure for aircraft recovery, but in this case, they were only able to provide two aircraft jacks. The work wouldn’t have been possible if Jet had not stepped in,” said an official.